International E-Waste Laws Extend to Victoria

International E-Waste Laws Extend to Victoria

The global push for prohibitions on both the landfilling and exporting (to the developing world) of e-waste has given rise to new legislative initiatives in many parts of the world.  The Australian State of Victoria has just enacted new e-waste restrictions effectively prohibiting the disposal of electronic or electrical equipment to landfill and requiring its treatment to occur within Australia, thereby generating opportunities for domestic resource recovery providers. The e-waste law is effective July 1st, 2019.

What is caught as e-waste?

E-Waste broadly includes any waste created from electronic or electrical equipment and includes anything that has a cord, battery or plug. This includes waste ranging from batteries to fridges. Sustainability Victoria has released a non-exhaustive list of products that are considered to be e-waste, which can be viewed here.

Who will be impacted by the new restrictions?

The restrictions, imposed under the Waste Management Policy (E-Waste) (E-Waste Policy), apply to any individual or organization that is involved in the generating, collecting, storing, handling, transporting or reprocessing, of e-waste. This means that the entire supply chain, both upstream and downstream, will be covered by the new requirements. The Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning’s Policy Impact Assessment (DELWP Policy) provides the following examples of those covered by the E-Waste Policy for guidance:

  • Generation – any type of organization that uses electrical or electronic equipment. For example, post office outlets, fitness centres, administrative offices, medical centres, commercial kitchens or retailers.
  • Collection / storage – e-waste recyclers, metal recyclers, material recovery facility operators, warehouse operators or retailer outlets offering take-back services.
  • Transport – e-waste recyclers, waste management organizations and transport companies.
  • Treatment – e-waste reproducers, metal recyclers and repair services.
  • Disposal – landfill operators.

General requirement

The E-Waste Policy requires an individual or organization involved in one or more of the above activities relating to e-waste to take all reasonable steps to eliminate risk to human health and the environment. This can include, but is not limited to, preventing the breakage or spillage of e-waste or the disposal of e-waste with a compliant e-waste service provider. Compliance with this general obligation could also include taking reasonable steps to:

  • prevent e-waste being disposed of in landfill; and
  • maximize recovery of e-waste production.

E-waste service providers

Under the E-Waste Policy there are also specific requirements imposed on e-waste service providers, which includes any organization that accepts e-waste for collection, storage, handling, transport or reprocessing.

E-waste service providers must:

  • take reasonable steps to minimize the duration e-waste is stored;
  • when transporting e-waste, maintain information for each load transported; and
  • when reprocessing e-waste:
    •  minimize the amount of residual waste;
    • record information; and
    • comply with the Product Stewardship Act 2011 (Cth) and Australian Standards.

Enforcement

It is acknowledged that organizations may take 12 – 24 months to reach full compliance with the new e-waste requirements. The Environment Protection Agency Victoria (EPA) will not initiate enforcement action until after 1 July 2020 and will work with organizations to assist them to become compliant in that time. After this, the EPA will take enforcement action against a non-compliant organization by:

  • conducting inspections (both planned and random) of organizations’ premises;
  • issuing an administrative notice identifying the need to comply with the E-Waste Policy; and
  • if still non-compliant, taking enforcement action for breach of notice.

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For further information, please contact Jonathan Cocker:

jonathan.cocker@bakermckenzie.com

416-865-6908

Jonathan D. Cocker heads the Firm’s Environmental Practice Group in Canada and is an active member of firm Global Consumer Goods & Retail and Energy, Mining and Infrastructure groups. Mr. Cocker provides advice and representation to multinational companies on a variety of environment, health and safety matters, including product content, dangerous goods transportation, GHS, regulated wastes, consumer product and food safety, extended producer responsibilities and contaminated lands matters. He appears before both EHS tribunals and civil courts across Canada. Mr. Cocker is a frequent speaker and writer on EHS matters, an active participant on EHS issues in a number of national and international industry associations and the recent author of the first edition of The Environment and Climate Change Law Review (Canada chapter) and the upcoming Encyclopedia of Environmental Law (Chemicals chapter).
Meredith Gibbs is a Special Counsel focusing on environmental, water and climate change law. Clients value Meredith's ability to understand their needs and her sensible, down-to-earth approach. Meredith has acted for a range of corporate clients in the energy, resources, agriculture and telecommunications sectors, together with water corporations, government departments and other statutory bodies.